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The JLC's response has been a big fat nothing

The JLC cannot simply ignore the allegations made against its former CEO, writes Stephen Pollard

    Jeremy Newmark
    Jeremy Newmark (Photo: PA)

    UPDATE:

    When this piece was written, nothing had been said publicly (or privately) about any JLC review or response. This morning - Wednesday - the JLC has announced reviews to be conducted by a law firm and accountants. This is exactly what should have happened and it's only fair that I make clear my criticisms are clearly wrong. They've done the right thing.

    Stephen Pollard

    Last Thursday, the JC revealed the contents of an internal report conducted by the JLC into the behaviour of Jeremy Newmark, its CEO at the time of the audit. Various allegations were made in the report.

    The story had one almost immediate consequence: Mr Newmark resigned as chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, to be free, as the JLM statement put it, to clear his name.

    On the day we published the JLC report, I wrote a piece alongside it which suggested that, appalling as the report's allegations were against Mr Newmark, the more fundamental issue concerned the reaction of the JLC to those allegations. Its reaction can be summarised in two words: cover up.

    Various highfalutin reasons were offered to justify this cover up: protecting Mr Newmark, who was - is - diabetic; protecting his family; and protecting the community from a scandal. The idea of lashon hara was also suggested as a justification not to take any further action.

    This might well all have been true. All of these might have motivated those who acted to cover up the report. But that is all, in a sense, irrelevant. Because the fact of the matter is that, in response to an alleged financial scandal - alleged, that is, by the JLC's own internal report - its trustees decided to bury the allegations. Not to call the police, not to alert its own member organisations, and not to alert anyone else in the community.

    Which brings us to now.

    We are told by the current JLC trustees and officers that they are very different, that this could not happen again, and that things have been transformed. And certainly, in my own dealings with the 'new' JLC there is a wholly positive and open spirit. But what has been the JLC's response since the allegations were published? Nothing - apart from some anodyne press statements. One has to wonder if the JLC fully grasps what has just happened. The publication was a hand grenade detonated at the heart of the JLC. Its very existence is now at issue.

    This was not our intention - all we were doing was making public a report that had been covered up by the JLC. But it was, obviously, an inevitable consequence of publication. Member organisations are demanding answers - they want to know why they were kept in the dark about their own money. But more widely, the community itself wants to know what really happened. And in response, there has been a big fat nothing.

    One suggestion has been that an independent QC or retired judge, perhaps from outside the community, be appointed to examine all the evidence, both regarding Mr Newmark's behaviour and that of the trustees. The Charity Commission is now involved, but that is no reason for the JLC not to go on the front foot and show that it grasps the scale of its crisis.

    Or the JLC could simply call in the police.

    There are any number of possible responses the JLC could make that would show that it understands how deeply confidence in its ability to discharge even the basic function of obeying the law has been shaken.

    But here we are, nearly a week after the revelations, and it has done absolutely nothing. It is as if it thinks that by ignoring the crisis, it will go away. 

    It won't. 

    It may be that, behind closed doors, all sorts is happening. But the operative words here are 'behind closed doors'. Because we have no idea. Will they ever learn that it is the behind closed doors attitude that got the JLC into this crisis? 

    The first cover up was an active decision not to publish the report. But the current JLC's failure to respond to the allegations in any meaningful way is, in its own way, no less damaging.

     

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